Today at 2.15pm is the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania: the largest, fastest and most luxurious ship of her generation.
The Lusitania was built by John Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd at Clydebank (Yard No. 367) along with her sister ship the Mauretania. These were two record-breaking ships and the construction of the Lusitania began on 17th August 1904 with the contracts signed off on 18th May 1905. The Lusitania was launched at 12.30pm on 7th June 1906 by Lady Inverclyde and her maiden voyage was from Liverpool to New York commencing 7th September 1907.
The Lusitania was so fast that she took the ‘Blue Riband’, the speed record on the North Atlantic, from a German liner, the Kaiser Wilhelm II. She recorded her fastest speed in 1909 achieving 25.85 knots.
The ship carried passengers across the North Atlantic and continued to do so during World War I until, at 2.15pm on 7th May 1915, she was struck on her starboard side by a torpedo from a German submarine U20. The Lusitania sank within twenty minutes, resulting in the loss of 1,198 passengers and crew out of a total complement of 1,959.
To commemorate the sinking of the great ship and the losses suffered, the Hunterian Museum have a programme of events. Their exhibition: Torpedoed at Sea: The RMS Lusitania, opens today and outlines the story behind the medals created in the wake of the sinking and is part of the continuing WWI commemorations.
You can find out more about the medal display at a lunch-time insight talk by Donal Bateson in the Museum at 1pm, 12th May.
The Hunterian are also hosting a ‘Night at the Museum’ event on 15th May which will involve an illumination and sound installation inspired by WW1 events and the Lusitania Medals display. Some of the images for this display have come from the Archive Services Lusitania collection. You can view a source guide for the collection here which includes: cost books, brochures, and plans and if you would like to see any of the records for the ship please do visit the archives by making an appointment with the Duty Archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Glasgow Great War Project is also commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania through our lunch-time talk series. Professor Nick Pearce will present: Art, Law and the Sinking of the Lusitania: a lunchtime talk in the University Chapel on Friday 8th May, 1.15pm. All are welcome.